Pet owners are healthier, have greater self-esteem and are less lonely than those who don’t have animals at home, according to a study.
Not only that, but they are also more conscientious, extroverted and less fearful, researchers at the American Psychological Association said.
They believe that pets serve as important sources of social and emotional support for the average person, and not just individuals facing significant health challenges.
Lead researcher, Allen R McConnell, of Miami University in Ohio, said: ‘We observed evidence that pet owners fared better, both in terms of well-being outcomes and individual differences, than non-owners on several dimensions.
‘Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.’
Pet owners are just as close to key people in their lives as to their animals, the study found.
This indicates no evidence that relationships with pets come at the expense of relationships with other people, or that people relied more on pets when their human social support was poorer.
The scientists, from Miami University and Saint Louis University in Missouri, conducted three experiments to examine the potential benefits of pet ownership among what they called ‘everyday people’.
They questioned 217 people with an average age of 31 and family income of $77,000, 79 per cent of whom were women.
The group answered a survey aimed at determining whether pet owners differed from people without pets in terms of well-being and personality type.